c.1300 (implied in anointing), from Old French enoint "smeared on," past participle of enoindre "smear on," from Latin inunguere "to anoint," from in- "on" + unguere "to smear" (see unguent). Originally in reference to grease or oil smeared on for medicinal purposes; its use in the Coverdale Bible in reference to Christ (cf. The Lord's Anointed, see chrism) has spiritualized the word. Related: Anointed; anointing.
The practice of anointing with perfumed oil was common among the Hebrews. (1.) The act of anointing was significant of consecration to a holy or sacred use; hence the anointing of the high priest (Ex. 29:29; Lev. 4:3) and of the sacred vessels (Ex. 30:26). The high priest and the king are thus called "the anointed" (Lev. 4:3, 5, 16; 6:20; Ps. 132:10). Anointing a king was equivalent to crowning him (1 Sam. 16:13; 2 Sam. 2:4, etc.). Prophets were also anointed (1 Kings 19:16; 1 Chr. 16:22; Ps. 105:15). The expression, "anoint the shield" (Isa. 21:5), refers to the custom of rubbing oil on the leather of the shield so as to make it supple and fit for use in war. (2.) Anointing was also an act of hospitality (Luke 7:38, 46). It was the custom of the Jews in like manner to anoint themselves with oil, as a means of refreshing or invigorating their bodies (Deut. 28:40; Ruth 3:3; 2 Sam. 14:2; Ps. 104:15, etc.). This custom is continued among the Arabians to the present day. (3.) Oil was used also for medicinal purposes. It was applied to the sick, and also to wounds (Ps. 109:18; Isa. 1:6; Mark 6:13; James 5:14). (4.) The bodies of the dead were sometimes anointed (Mark 14:8; Luke 23:56). (5.) The promised Deliverer is twice called the "Anointed" or Messiah (Ps. 2:2; Dan. 9:25, 26), because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost (Isa. 61:1), figuratively styled the "oil of gladness" (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:9). Jesus of Nazareth is this anointed One (John 1:41; Acts 9:22; 17:2, 3; 18:5, 28), the Messiah of the Old Testament.